How to cycle to work with a colleague

Heather cycling to work
Do you have a colleague who has always wanted to cycle in but still has not quite made the leap? With a bit of support from you, they could be riding to work before you know it. Cycling UK’s Sam Jones was bike buddy to his colleague Heather Thorpe, and the changes were immediate...

With almost half of all working people living within five miles of their place of employment, it’s a wonder that only 800,000 in the UK cycle in for their commute on a daily basis.

If you’re one of those 800,000, you can probably recite the benefits in your sleep. By now your colleagues should know them as well as you – from the increased vigour you feel in the morning and the amount you save in travel fares or fuel, to how great it is to whizz by nose-to-tail traffic as it inches along with the rush-hour blues.

Perhaps your eulogising has convinced some that they should give this ‘cycling to work lark’ a try, but they aren’t entirely sure how to start. It could be some years since they last cycled on the road and they might be nervous about throwing themselves into the scrum of the early morning commute. They might just want the comfort of a familiar face accompanying them along their way.

Now’s the time to take on the mantle of ‘bike buddy’ and give the gift of cycling to your interested colleagues!

It’s very much something we practise as well as preach at Cycling UK. So, I’ve been helping one of our membership team, Heather Thorpe, to overcome some of her concerns about cycling to work.

Heather learned to ride when she was about seven years old and since then has been an occasional cyclist, usually keeping to the trails for the odd leisure ride. Until joining Cycling UK, cycling was not really an activity she did with her friends – meaning her time on two wheels, particularly on the road, has been limited.

Having an extra person cycling with me really boosted my confidence, and a bit of advice for riding on the road really helped. I thought the ride in to work would be much worse, but actually it was all good!

Heather Thorpe, Cycling UK membership officer

Guildford roads can be scary even for drivers,” she told me, “so it seems it would be even worse when on a bike.”

Guildford, the Surrey town where Cycling UK’s head office is based, is just like so many of our towns and cities – the roads have been largely designed to facilitate motor traffic at speed. So when the traffic is not roaring by, it’s snarling in lengthy lines – neither scenario is the most welcoming to the new or infrequent cyclist.

With driving and buses not realistic options, and regarding cycling on the local roads as a bit too intimidating, Heather normally has a half-hour walk to work. When she learned of Cycling UK’s ‘bike buddy’ system, she felt this was just what she needed to help push her “out of the comfort zone” and would also help relieve her guilt about her forlorn bike abandoned in its shed.

I’ve been looking for a different means of fitness and bringing cycling into my commute fits well – especially as I would like to try a triathlon but have always been put off by that aspect,” she said. “Also the speed, especially going home [it’s all downhill] is a bonus!”

After the first ride to work, Heather’s confidence soared, particularly after tackling the climb to work. She said: “That hill was nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be!”

Her local horizons are expanding and she’s already talking of continuing cycling not just to commute but also for seeing friends after work and exploring the local Downslink route with her fiancée, Richard.

It wasn’t therapy or lessons that achieved this dramatic turnaround, but simply the reassurance of company. “Having an extra person cycling with me really boosted my confidence,” said Heather.

A bit of advice for riding on the road, such as knowing where to position myself, really helped. I thought the ride in would be much worse, but actually it was all good!”

So it’s now 800,001 people who regularly cycle to work. Why don’t you help boost the numbers further and be a bike buddy too? It’s a rewarding experience, and if you’re a lone cyclist in the workplace surely now’s the time to see if you can inspire your co-workers to join in the fun. Just follow our tips below.

Cycling UK’s top tips for being a Bike Buddy

1. Look out for your buddy

You want to follow your buddy – not too close, but you also don’t want to let them race away! The reason for this is that you can help control the traffic behind a bit better and give (hopefully) helpful advice to improve their cycling style.

2. Plan ahead

Take some time before the ride to work out a more traffic-friendly and easy route for your buddy. If they are accustomed to driving in, this might not be the most suitable route for cycling in. Also if they haven’t cycled for a while, choosing the hilly option might not be welcome so consider the gradient too!

3. Keep them involved

Show them the route you’ve planned on Google Maps so they have an idea of where they’re going. It’ll help them feel safer and give them a better sense of control.

4. Make it a morning meander not a rush

The last thing your buddy will want to do is rush in to work. Once you’ve worked out your meeting point, give yourselves plenty of time not only to cycle in, but also to check over your buddy’s bike, the way they wear a helmet (if they are wearing one), plus their comfort with basic biking skills like braking and signalling and so on.

5. No pressure

Don’t pressure your buddy into riding in. Let them pick the day (like a sunny one) and don’t be disappointed or offended if they change their mind at the last minute. You want to make the ride as stress free as possible for them, and pushing them into riding won’t help.

6. Lend them your wisdom

Use the time before you set off to pass on some advice about cycling in traffic. You can check out our top tips for cycling in traffic if you need some pointers. Explain what you’re doing and why.

7. There and back again

Just because you’ve guided them in once, this doesn’t mean your buddy is now a fully fledged comfortable cyclist. Check whether they want a bit of company on the ride home or when they make the journey in again.

Be a #BikeHero this Bike Week

Bike Week 2024 takes place 10-16 June. It’s the ideal time to encourage a colleague to cycle to work. You can be a #BikeHero by helping them ride in for the first time. Register with Yellow Jersey for free cycle insurance for the week.

Find out more about Bike Week